Press regulation deal agreed by parties - Labour

A charter will be published this morning and will be put to MPs this afternoon


A deal has been done to create a tough new press regulator in Britain, Harriet Harman said today.

The shadow culture secretary said a charter would be published this morning and would be put to MPs this afternoon.

Peers will then be asked to agree to a “small piece of legislation” which would effectively prevent the charter being watered down.

Ms Harman said the legislation to go before peers specifically would not mention press regulation.

She told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "We have to publish the charter this morning, we have to this afternoon put it before the House of Commons.

“In the House of Lords I hope they are going to agree to a bit of law that says this charter can't be tampered with by ministers.

“I hope there won't be a vote in the House of Lords because I hope it will be agreed.

“There's an amendment going forward into the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill which says that where a charter says in that charter it can't be dissolved or amended without a two-thirds majority in both Houses then that should have the force of law.”

She added: “It specifically won't mention this charter because the idea is that we want to have that effect without it actually mentioning press regulation in law”.

The three party leaders are expected to meet this morning, according to culture secretary Maria Miller. She said the three parties were “very close to a deal” but insisted there would be no statutory underpinning for the new regulatory system.

Ms Miller told Today: “We are very close to a deal but I think what has been accepted by all the main parties is the Prime Minister's Royal Charter should go ahead and that, importantly, we have stopped Labour's extreme version of the press law, which now, as part of any deal, the Labour Party would actually vote against.

“It is important that we get the detail absolutely right and there needs to be a conversation between the leaders and I think that will go ahead this morning.

“What's really important is the Royal Charter now has overwhelming support from all the three main parties and we have stopped this extreme form of press law, which would have gone ahead otherwise.

“(It's) absolutely clear there is no statutory underpinning for the approach we are taking.

"What we are talking about here is simply reiterating the fact that there can be no change to the charter as we move forward.”

Ms Miller insisted the legislation which will be considered by peers would be a “no-change clause.

Asked if a deal would go ahead, she replied: “Yes, because I think now there is a very clear acceptance from Labour, from the Liberals, that the Prime Minister's Royal Charter is the right way forward.”

It comes after last-ditch talks to find a consensus between the three major parties ended at 2.30am.

Prime minister David Cameron launched a final push to find an accord yesterday as he faced a likely Commons defeat on the issue later today with around 20 of his MPs set to back a rival package put together by an alliance of his Liberal Democrat coalition partners and the Opposition.

The Conservatives were represented at the meeting by cabinet office minister Oliver Letwin - who has been the key figure for the party in months of

Leveson talks - and they were also attended by the Labour leader, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg and Ms Harman.

A Commons showdown was set up by Mr Cameron when he dramatically ended negotiations last week into finding a way to implement the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry into phone hacking.

Labour is expected to publish an “enshrinement clause” shortly which will be added to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill in the Lords.

The amendment is said to be designed to protect the Royal Charter from change without an overwhelming majority in both Houses. The government will publish the text of the charter later.

The prime minister is already due to make a statement in the Commons this afternoon on last week's EU summit.

The new clause in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill will state: “Where a body is established by Royal Charter after March 1st, 2013, with functions relating to the carrying on of an industry, no recommendation may be made to Her Majesty in Council to amend the body's Charter or dissolve the body unless any requirements included in the Charter on the date it is granted for Parliament to approve the amendment or dissolution have been met.”

Labour leader Ed Miliband said a new system of press regulation, which was today agreed by all three main political parties, would be “underpinned by statute” and would uphold the freedom of the press.